Sunday, 28 February 2010

End of month views, February 2010

Earlier today, I posted with photos of a female Sparrowhawk that was visiting my garden this morning. I guess she makes an entry into February’s 'end of the month garden view'. Interestingly, this posting has indirectly kicked up another couple of things.

Suspecting I’m not the only blogger that has had the following problem, I wonder if anyone has a solution for the next couple of photos…

Can you see what has happened? For some reason blogger has uploaded them in the wrong aspect. These photos were cropped to make landscape images not portrait ones in exactly the same way as the others. I have had this happen just once before with a nice shot of a carder bee and never posted it.

My first thoughts tonight, were to look at the HTML code. Instantly I could see that (as you might expect) the ‘px’ for the width and height were round the wrong way. Okay then, a quick edit should have sorted it out. Nope… it just distorted the image!

As there are reasons behind using each image I have decided to just keep them in. The first one above just conjured up images (to me) of the leaf being fossilised by the snow from a winter that has had way more snow than normal. The second one shows that the crocuses are trying to break free and daffodils are not far behind them.

As regular visitors will know, in a bid to stop myself from digging up bulbs (when moving plants around my garden) I decided to plant a large number under my lawn. I love to see them grow through it. Unfortunately, with a snow covering, it is very easy to walk over them…

In other areas, it is Hellebores that I’m trying to see open their first flowers. Nope, this one is being really modest and hiding behind a cone…

In my front garden yesterday, I pruned back hard the dead growth of my Penstemons. I’m hoping they will survive this colder than usual winter we have had. Interestingly enough, one plant was showing signs of new growth (wrong aspect shot).

Coming back to taking precautions re digging plants up I often add short bamboo canes when planting in densely populated areas. This means when the plants die down... the cane marks the spot.

The young Meconopsis below has surprised me here too… the original ones I have die down completely but these ones haven't. I’m really looking forward now, to seeing if these young plants will flower this year and I'm also wondering if they might just set seed too :-D

This next, wrong aspect, shot shows a very sad group of snowdrops. This was a recent planting. These snowdrops were grown in a pot already. I picked them up from a garden centre. As there were already snowdrops beside this planting that are not drooping like this I suspect that this bunch weren’t hardened off enough.

Looking more than hardy enough and showing both glossy leaves and blossom buds is a Pieris in a sheltered spot…

The images above were a few of the things that caught my eye today on my garden wander. However, today is about joining Helen and others with some 'end of the month garden views' so let’s get to it…

Below you can see my brighter front garden. The first shot shows the view from my front step and the other from inside my back garden - standing at the gate. Remember clicking on photos will enlarge them. Yep, this is reality gardens.

Yep, and there is quite a contrast on the other side of the fence in my Gunnera border. Lots of green growth… including on the fence. We need to get that stained again and some of the broken strips replaced.

Let’s turnaround and walk a little further into my back garden now and look across to the arbour. This area is under construction! Well, almost. It’s a stop start job and to be honest until tonight I wasn’t sure how I would tackle it.

This is the area I hope to build a good sized wildlife pond. I’ll come back to this. Let’s walk first across to the arbour and look at the aspect from there.

Yep, you can see that there is a wooden seat being stored behind the arbour and wheelie bins behind the gate. This is a winter arrangement only. From Spring onwards the bins will be behind the arbour and the seat will be returned to under the pergola.

You can also see that there will be a good view of the new camera nestbox from the arbour seat should we be lucky enough to have birds nest in it this year.

Let’s walk down the lawn along the longest strip of the garden. Looking across to the new pond location you can see that there’s going to be a lot of hard work to come there.

Standing in front of the shed and we are looking back to the arbour once again. You can see the main planting of bulbs starting to come through the lawn. You can also see rhododendrons growing around the bamboo on the right. They were relocated from the pond area. I wonder if they will flower this year.

Ah yes, the pond area. Let’s come back to it. This is going to be the main feature in my end of the month views throughout the year and it will indeed show up my progress... or lack of it. Mm… I’m now wondering if this is a good thing!

My husband wandered by as I was cropping this view and I found myself explaining roughly what I was thinking about. I selected the airbrush tool in PhotoShop and started sketching it out. Before I knew where I was I had finally formed a plan!

Okay, now I did say it was a sketch… it is a rough one too so bear with me. The blue lines as you might guess suggest the water. I’ve brought that forward across the gravel path to the area where the Rosemary plants have died this winter. The sage there isn’t looking too good either.

So, as often the case with gardening, with the loss of some plants a new opportunity has opened up. The brown strip represents a path across the water. I need somewhere to stand to use an ocassional washing line! The green represents plants around the pond.

Yep, this is reality gardening and looking now at the pink arrow on the left in the image below you can see where the temp washing line retracts to. I have two hooks on my pergola and this line crosses in a zig zag. I don’t use it all the time but it is very handy. I love the ability to hide the line when not in use.

Don’t laugh now… I know my sketch is a bit ropey ;-) However, the final red part of the sketch shows the position of my rotary dryer where my washing is usually dried when outside. This too, gets removed when not in use.

So there you have it... washing line and all!

As often the case, I do post pretty late on in the evening. However, tomorrow I’m going to enjoy browsing the blogs of others that have joined Helen through the links in her posting. I’m looking forward to it :-)

All photos above were taken in my garden on February 28th 2010.

A nervous place

With a female Sparrowhawk making repeated visits to the garden feeders this morning the other birds are understandably looking nervous. Completely oblivious to this are small group of Siskins who have just arrived. I have noticed in the past that they don’t get the jitters the same way as the other birds. They seem quite comfortable being the only ones at the feeders.

Good luck Ladies and Gents… at a guess the hungry Lady below that has been visiting this morning is very likely to return… real soon!

Clicking on the photos will enlarge them.

She waits a while and looks to the ground below.

She listens for chatters from birds hiding in the hedge.

My favourite shot out of this group.

Hopefully the weather will be dry enough later to get out with my camera and take some end of the month shots… a nervous time for me too ;-)

The photos above were taken in my garden on 28th February 2010, through a window.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Snow brings them in…

…again and again! Snow covered ground makes it difficult (once again) for the birds to find the food on the ground. As a result, the hanging feeders and bird table have become a bit over crowded to say the least. Chatters of frantic activity increase in volume with the increase in birds arriving at them.

Just where do they all come from on wintry days like these? Ah… but they can all vanish in seconds with an eerie silence replacing the chatter. You’d think it would be easy for the Sparrowhawk to catch prey in gardens at times like this.

You’d think….

There is no background music in this video. It is silent just as it was in the garden.

Yep… this female Sparrowhawk sitting on the roof of my bird table in the wind and snow was wondering this herself yesterday. Again and again she has visited my garden over the last two days. It may of course be two or more females but this is definitely the most visits I have ever seen over a short period like this.

The photos above are screen grabs from my video for those who can’t view it. I would also like to mention that I am now adding captions below my videos for people that have difficulty with their hearing when playing videos with background music.

The caption serves as a warning sign so speakers can be turned down if necessary. Although the last few videos I have posted have been without music I still plan to add it to replace background noise and for longer videos.

Although the female Sparrowhawk was never spotted catching prey unfortunately for a male Chaffinch… a male Sparrowhawk was. The actual snatch wasn’t spotted but the feather plucking was. On the snow covered ground the small grey feathers were blowing around and sticking to it.

The reality is that this bird needs to feed on days like this too. I just hate to see it in my garden. I did record some video just to see what bird it caught. I then opened the window to chase it off. It didn't eat the bird in my garden but removed some feathers.

Reconsidering showing this short piece of video footage again in October 2011 when I am updating links. I have have decided to add it for those that are interested in birds of prey. This is the reality of nature be it in or outside our gardens.

Heavy rain followed by more snow is being forecasted for tomorrow right through until Saturday. I guess it’ll be a busy day out in the garden again. However, I had hoped to get out and do some gardening before posting views of the garden for an end of the month review. Oops… it will really be reality shots then… I think ;-)

The video and screen grab photos were taken in my garden on February 24th 2010.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Tech Tuesday: Nestbox to video

First off, I should stress I am definitely no technical guru. However, I do work with the technology that brings the images from my camera nestbox to the videos you see on my blog. I have been quite comfortable with this.

There are many blogs and websites that show nestbox (nestcam) footage which will not necessarily have the same set-up as I work with. My OH is the tech guru behind mine which ultimately has been chosen to produce videos.

Okay, so not everyone has a computer, hardware and software to produce video… or perhaps even the desire to do so. Many people are simply looking to watch the nestbox action on their television screens.

The diagram opposite shows how easy this can be. I’d like to thank Mike at Handykam for allowing me to use his website image.

This set-up would work using a purpose built nestbox with camera or equally well with a camera kit. You may remember that last year I added a camera kit to the hedgehog house that my daughter made.

I guess you could use this set up with the long cable (with connectors) being passed through an open window. Although when not in use the cable and connectors would be outside and need to be protected from rain, cold etc in some way.

Following carefully the instructions in any kit/camera nestbox you choose to use, the alternative to this is to drill a hole through a wall to bring the cable and connectors through it. This is what we have chosen to do.

I myself, am very interested to hear details of the set-ups others (especially bloggers) have. It is in response to questions from others that I have written this post. If you are a blogger, you may have already posted/plan to post on the set-up and cameras you use. If so, then perhaps you might like to leave a link in a comment here for others to see.

Okay, to my set-up here at shirls gardenwatch. I now have two nestboxes with cameras. In both cases we have taken cables and connectors through the outside wall of our house. For each camera there is a set of red, white and yellow connectors outside and a set inside. Between the two nestboxes we have three cameras.

In addition to the nestboxes I have two further cameras. One is in the hedgehog house and the other is a wildlife camera with IR that I use on a tripod in the evenings to see the hedgehogs move around my garden. So that takes the total count to five cables and sets of connectors coming through my wall.

Let’s start with our first camera nestbox sited on an outside house wall. In the photo opposite (click to enlarge) you can see the connectors at the bottom of the box. A base plate protects the connectors from the elements.

You can see a black cable just below this nestbox which runs briefly along the wall. It then disappears around the corner and runs down the back of a drainpipe. This cable then runs a short distance under gravel and then goes through the house wall at approx 12 cm up from the ground.

The inset photo shows a second camera we added to our nestbox - an infra red one (IR) so we could see inside at night and early in the morning when eggs usually are laid. We had to take this cable outside of the box just under the roof after clipping the connectors in place inside. This second cable also runs briefly along the wall (not shown in this photo) following the path of the first when it gets round the corner although they do go through different holes in the wall.

We now have three small holes through our wall although we didn’t envisage this in the beginning. I started with just two cameras. One in this nestbox and the other was a very basic outdoor IR camera fixed to an old tripod. I used the IR to watch and video the hedgehogs during the evenings as they visited feeding stations I set up for them. It's great fun watching the hedgehogs.

I kept the IR camera outdoors with the connectors in a lidded box. When I used this camera I brought cable and connectors in through a window. On a cooler October evening you might expect that wasn’t a popular move for the rest in the household!

You can see why more holes through the wall were added. Being a gardener, I also wanted to limit the amount of cable visible. On the whole I think we have achieved that.

Fortunately, I have a great covering of ivy over my pergola where my other camera nestbox is located. My hedgehog house is in this vicinity too. Cables for both have been clipped to the trellis and posts there.

The cable and connectors for my present roaming IR wildlife camera (replacing the faulty original IR one) are housed in a lidded box hidden in a large shrub beside my pergola. I keep this higher quality camera (with its set of connectors) indoors and only bring it out when in use.

Okay then… there is a paved path between the house wall and the pergola. Fortunately it is only one slab wide in the area we want to pass and the paving slab is not cemented in place.

We chose to lift the paving slab and run the cable under it. We raked the gravel back alongside it. You can see that we have used basic plastic conduit to house the cables.

This conduit was then embedded in the sand beneath the paving slab. When we added the second camera nestbox we added a second piece of conduit.

Perhaps, had we envisaged so many cables we could have used a pipe system with no need to lift the paving slab after it was added. Hindsight is a wonderful thing! The conduit method still works well enough.

I should add here, that we made sure the cables were deep enough under the gravel and that it was securely clipped to the wall and to the pergola post to reduce the chances of the cable being pulled. OH also filled the holes (both inside and out) with silicon sealer as necessary.

Okay, now to the bit that I perhaps need my OH to read over to check I’ve understood everything well enough. I may need to edit this bit ;-)

I have been pondering for some time on the easiest way to explain the more technical ‘path’ from the nestbox to a video ready for upload. A montage seemed the way to go. Let’s hope I’ve got this right. Here goes...

In basic terms the camera cable comes through the outside wall, inside my house and connects directly to a switcher box (blue arrow). I press one of four numbered buttons to cycle through my cameras (white arrow).

There are two cables leaving this switcher box (blue arrow leaving switcher box). I think one carries picture and the other sound. These cables connect directly to a video capture card which is in a slot in my PC. I hope you are still with me here.

My video capture card (similar to the one shown in the center of the montage) has software allowing me to see the images from my cameras in a window style screen that I can view on my PC monitor. I can see the images full screen but opt to view them smaller in the top right of my display while I work on other things.

This software also has an onscreen controller similar to one for a video/DVD player. I record by selecting from the controller using my PC mouse (see white arrow). I can also capture photos too. A strip of photos pops up adding them as I capture them. Before closing this software I need to save my photos to files in the usual way.

Recorded video from my cameras is saved automatically to my hard drive. I have other software to edit my captured videos. I have had this video software for many years and am very familiar with it (bugs and all).

I have a pretty old version of Pinnacle Studio. At the moment, the current version is 14… my version is 7! However, my older version generates background music and is one of the reasons that I still use it.

I should point out that all footage that I capture and use as video I have watched live. I don’t use any motion detector software that can capture images day or night. Yep, I will miss stuff. That’s just the way I like to do it. It’s like looking out my window to the action out there at that time. However, I can see how valuable the motion software is too. It is very popular. As I have no experience with this software perhaps others could tell us about theirs.

I’d take a guess that not everyone has read to the end here. Please accept a virtual muffin to go with the cuppa you'll be needing now. You've earned it :-D

I hope this has given a basic insight into the whole cameras in nestboxes thing and that this might help you to understand how it can work. If others give me links I’ll add them to the end here too. You can email me if you'd prefer.

As an extra bonus to all that did make it to the end, let’s take a look at a couple of my favourite nestbox scenes. The first video was taken just two days after our first camera nestbox went up.

There was great excitement when a pair of Blue tits visited. The male came in, the female followed, the male left and then the female inspected the property! Note she considers the view from the entrance out to the garden too. She also taps the wall noisily with her beak.

No extra background music in this video

The second video shows that one of the early activity in a nestbox is something known as a nesting shuffle. Birds will perform this when there is nothing in the box. I guess they are testing it for size.

It’s not until you see the shuffle with material in the box too that you can see why the female does this. She is making the nestcup for her brood.

No extra background music in this video

This is definitely enough tech for one posting. Next time, I’ll chat more in general terms about the basics of video editing and we can take a look at the whole video uploading thing.

Oops... most in the UK won't see this as a Tuesday posting! I'll need to get one prepared ahead for the next time :-D

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Viewing available now

As daylight hours grow by the day, despite the cold temps we may have, its time for nesting birds to search out nestboxes in our gardens. Perhaps you may already have seen activity like John at Midmarsh Jottings who also has cameras in two nestboxes plus one outside too see here.

Not many people have cameras in nestboxes, I know, so I’d suggest a good time to watch your nestboxes for any birds checking them out just now would be in the morning. Anytime between 9.30-11.30 am would be good. You may also get enquiries over the lunch time period.

So, with your new nestbox (or cleaned out exisiting one see info below) ready for tenants, it’s a waiting game. It's the same every Spring.

As regular readers will know we have had (still have) a rooster in our colour Camera nestbox. Unfortunately we saw no nesting there last year.

We also recently put up a second black/white IR camera nestbox (courtesy of Ian at the Dobbies Blog) on a Pergola post. Naturally, I am eagerly awaiting the first visits inside. I have been hoping all week I'd have some visits inside to share tonight... but alas... not yet :-)

We have had some enquiries though… although this blue tit only looked through the entrance. It was curious though! The photo below is a screen grab the video shown below.

Fifteen minutes after this visit another blue tit came along. In the video screen grabs below the bird on the left is the first more curious bird. The bird on the right didn’t get to the entrance. The question is… could they be a pair?

You’ll see from the video below that the second bird wasn’t brave enough to go to the entrance. Based on the patterns on the head, I don’t believe either bird was the one that is roosting in my colour nestbox. Roll the film…

No extra background music in this video.

Now, what do you think? I myself am curious if the camera attached to the roof is bothering it… perhaps making it wary of going inside. Our other camera nestbox has a false roof and the cameras are above it with the lens just sitting above the hole. They don’t seem to be a problem. An interesting one there. Time will tell.

Okay, how do we encourage the birds to view the inside? Some advertising perhaps? Sorry, couldn’t resist having a bit of fun with this. The sign went up yesterday...

From inside, via my computer screen I could watch inside the box. The light flickered on a number of occasions both yesterday and today showing a bird was at the entrance considering coming in… alas still no sightings.

So, if you have a nestbox with a camera and you see a flickering image as shown in the below… don’t worry. Your camera is not faulty… this flickering is a very good sign! Birds are showing interest in your nestbox :-)

No extra background music in this video.

Okay, so let’s consider viewing a property once again. What would put you off? Perhaps an over grown area in front of the property?

Once again, if your property is a little different than the others in the area perhaps a sign would encourage the right kind of tenants!

Regular visitors will know that it is most likely that Blue tits will use the nestboxes in my garden. However, back in March 2008 I put up a Blackbird nestbox under my pergola.

You haven’t heard me mention this since? Yep, no nesting activity seen here so far.

Like all properties that have been on the market a while, I decided to improve the first impressions… should any blackbird fly by now. Yep… the pruners came out and I enjoyed a bit of light pruning yesterday.

Don’t worry, the ivy will come back again, I’ll prune it again and it will make a neat compact covering. Looking above this nestbox you can see quite a depth of ivy growing there.

Now… you could take a guess that birds might consider nesting up there… if they have not done so already.

Before the plants properly kick into gear for the year it is great to have the interest that birds visiting the garden can bring don’t you think?

Finally, perhaps you’ve a nestbox in your garden already and wondering what to do with it just now. You’ve perhaps had birds nesting in it in previous years but not now. It could be that there is an old nest in there. I’d consider opening it up ASAP and remove it.

The BTO give advice on their site: “When cleaning out nest boxes it is advisable to wear surgical gloves and a dust mask. Old nests may harbour fungi growing on damp nest material, which can cause respiratory diseases. Nests can also house a variety of parasites such as fleas, lice and ticks. It is best, therefore, when removing the old nest to put this straight into a plastic bag and seal it before disposal.”

The RSPB also mention fleas etc : “The nests of most birds harbour fleas and other parasites, which remain to infest young birds that hatch the following year. We recommend that old nests be removed in the autumn, from August onwards once the birds have stopped using the box.

They go on to say: “Use boiling water to kill any remaining parasites, and let the box dry out thoroughly before replacing the lid. Insecticides and flea powders must not be used. If there are unhatched eggs in the box, these may be removed legally only between August and January, and must be disposed of.”

Back in 2008 it was awful watching the remaining three chicks of a brood of Blue tits (in our colour camera nestbox) twitch in the nest with parasites of some kind attack them. I’d definitely recommend a clean start for any chicks in your nestbox.

I’ll leave you with a much nicer thought… newly fledged chicks in your garden being fed by their parents. What a treat this is to see. Wishing you successful broods from your nestbox this year :-D

The photos and videos above were taken in my garden on February 20th 2010.

Lucky ducks

Mallards on an almost completely frozen village pond got an unexpected treat yesterday evening. Out on a study break/run in the car with my daughter we found the planned location for our trip (a walled garden centre) closed by the time we got there.

A back-up plan of a container of the homemade garden bird mix (I had made during the winter days when I wasn’t able to get my regular mixes) was tucked away in the car. Feeding the ducks (usually with bread) at a familiar spot along the River Tay in Perth was the next location.

Then I remembered nearby pond at New Scone (just outside Perth) where ducks could also be seen. Perhaps easier to feed a seed mix there too. What I wasn’t expecting was the pond to be almost completely frozen over. That made feeding the birds seed (some of the mix small grain) very easy. I just scattered it across the ice and there was no need for the birds to charge towards us on the path.

The sun was beginning to set and it felt great to be giving these birds an unexpected feed at a time when many had already tucked their heads for the night. This mix, that my birds were becoming a bit fussy about now was being very well received! What a lovely sound was coming from the ducks too which you can hear in the video below.

No extra background music in this video.

Sorry, I feel the need for a good rant now! This wasn’t an idyllic scene.

Okay, so the ducks were very lucky but so too were the two girls we could see playing at the edge of the pond round a bit from where we were standing! Foolishly they were trying out the ice along the edge. Unfortunately, their presence spoiled our visit for my daughter who was becoming seriously stressed that they would walk further out on the ice and fall through.

The pond wasn’t completely frozen over. There was a good sized area beside us that was completely clear from ice. That was why my daughter was so stressed. With these girls on their own she felt a responsibility to be ready to run round to save them should it be necessary. She was working out a plan in her head on what she would do. Poor soul… she was supposed to be on a de-stressing break!

I should say, I too was keeping an eye on the girls. Once they moved safely away to play near bushes, I was persuaded by my daughter to head away too. As we walked around the path to the entrance we heard a voice from across this frozen pond. There were parents on a seat which was out of view to us where we stood feeding the ducks. Thank goodness the girls were not alone!

I’ll guess the call was to say don’t play any further away… but there was no call when they were testing the ice! So… my rant is to the parents who were sitting on the other side of this pond (too far away if the girls fell in). They caused us (and anyone else) stress watching their children!

Yes, perhaps they were locals and that edge isn’t deep. Perhaps, they were not concerned. However, any depth of ice can cause safety issues.

What if other children watched this and thought walking on any ice was safe. Lucky these girls were this time… however… children are not ducks!!

Sorry, this wasn’t my planned posting for today. This is an extra one for today. I had intended just the video with very basic text. Ah well... I do have a post sitting waiting for later today. I’ve had a waiting game this week with my cameras.

I’ll wait just a few hours more. Do come back later this evening. Meantime have a great day. It’s a bright blue sky and sunny morning here. Hope it’s nice with you too :-D

The photo above is a screen grab from the video shown above taken at New Scone pond on February 20th 2010.

Monday, 15 February 2010

GBBD... Congrats Carol!

Today Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day celebrates not only the flowering plants in many, many gardens across the Blogisphere but it also its 3rd Blogiversary! I’d like to send warm Congratulations to Carol over at May Dreams Gardens who came up with this idea and has continued to generously host it every month.

Just a little something for you, Carol and all the other bloggers who take part…

You can make a wish if you want. I wonder what ‘garden’ wish for 2010 you would make if you did. Please do leave a comment below. This could be fun to see what everyone would choose. ‘No snow’ and warmer temps is already a given :-)

What is GBBD? Well, basically Carol asks:
“What’s blooming in your garden? We would love to have you join in for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day. It’s easy to participate and all are invited!

"Just post on your blog about what is blooming in your garden on the 15th of the month and put your name and the url to your post on the Mr. Linky widget below.”
That would be on Carol’s posting for the month. “Then leave a comment to tell us what you have waiting for us to see so we can pay you a virtual visit!”

Carol goes on to say:
“If you are new to garden blogging or just started seeing the bloom day posts and wondered how to join in, it’s easy. You just do the above. No asking permission, no rules, no hassles. Botanical names are strictly optional. And in the winter-time, even blooms are optional!”

Most months I have participated… although on quite a few occasions a few days late! I have always enjoyed taking part and have e-met many bloggers through GBBD. Having a regular date for posting images from the garden are a great comparison record between the years too. If you'd like to take part this month head over to Carol's posting to leave your link and enjoy garden hopping.

The montage below does not represent the flowers in my garden this February. This is an image I posted for February 2009. Yep… the crocuses were flowering nicely…

February 2010, and the picture is quite different…

Remember clicking on all photos will enlarge them.

The Drumstick Primulas on the other hand look pretty much as they were in the montage. They just need a little tidy up around them.

Last February, I had a few young hellebore plants that I hoped would flower. None flowered then but this year we have a few flower buds almost ready to open…

Wandering around the garden in search of flowers this morning and the Heuchera Liquorish caught my eye. Oops… I know its not flowering, but in the absence of flowers (and even when the garden is full of them) this plant at my front door always catches my eye.

Oh… just a thought for any new bloggers that enjoy foliage plants too. Pam at Digging is now hosting Foliage Follow-Up postings to GBBD on the 16th of the month.

Foliage again, I know, but this sedum gives such wonderful jewel like colour in the garden during the winter months…

Jewel-like is a great description too… when the close-up pans out to the reality photo. Yep the pot is tilted after we were busy above it over the weekend making an adjustment to a bird box. Fallen ivy from the trimming in this area awaits collection too.

LOL… for GBBD we can carefully edit our blooms! I keep meaning to photograph a group of five plants but always get caught up with the close-ups when I go out with my camera :-D

Oh… now here’s another thought for new bloggers. Helen over at the patient gardener’s weblog is hosting postings at the end of the month. She is suggesting more garden progress photos.

Helen is picking four viewpoints in her garden to make her month by month comparisons. I never thought of that for my first posting but will consider a few areas for next time. Yep… this one is reality gardening! I like that idea :-D

To continue in the area of reality gardening this winter will have taken its toll on many garden plants. In my garden the Gunnera below was given it usual winter protection of layers of hay and leaves but only time will tell if it has survived.

It looks like perhaps I’ve lost my established clump of Rosemary that came from cuttings. Aw…

My bigger area of Sage (also from cuttings) has been hit too. This usually takes some winter damage. I generally prune it fairly hard and it comes back again. Tempted as I am to get the pruners out now I’ll hold fire for just a little longer.

Choisya Ternata always gets a few stems with some winter die back in my garden. Once again, I just get the pruners out and as a result of these Spring prunings this plant has become more dense in its beautifully scented glossy foliage.

Now isn’t this a very sorry sight below? This is the state all my front garden ‘Etna’ Penstemons are in...

Once again these now well established plants were taken from cuttings. I really couldn’t make a guess if a severe pruning will save these plants but I’ll not rush to cut them down yet. Fingers crossed, it will save them as they will be a great loss to my front garden :-(

Evergreen ferns are a bonus over the winter months and I have a few now. They do suffer some winter damage, but I have to say I don’t mind seeing the blotches on them. I actually think they are quite pretty. The bonus in pruning these leaves are the wonderful new fronds that replace them.

Below we have yet another story. What’s going on here? Usually the birds feast on the berries on my small pendulus Cotoneaster tree. Usually they are gone within a day!

However, I’m sure I heard in a television programme before Christmas that if berries were left on a tree a hard winter could be expected. Well, these berries were left and unfortunately for the birds the winter claimed them before they could.

You have to wonder then that the birds had a sense of what weather was to come before we did. Perhaps they were saving theses berries for lean times of food. Good job then, I continued to feed them sultanas and lots of other goodies :-)

Okay… this is Bloom Day so let’s end with a couple of goodies. The biggest goodie of all has to be (sorry you must be fed up of me saying this) the perennial wallflower Bowles’ Mauve…

I have three plants in a group at my front door. It looks like one has been hit a little by the cold temps but as you can see above… this plant is still trying to flower!!

Okay… onwards now to the flower of the month in my garden…

Okay, this is a very new arrival… only planted at the weekend! Edelweiss is the variety. I wanted to add to the other two very small clumps of snowdrops in this area so I could look out to them from my windows. Honestly they weren’t added to give me a flower for GBBD!

However, to me anyway, this flower is just a bonus to the prettiest picture of all in the garden at the moment. Can you guess what I’m thinking about?

No? Ah… it’s the beauty that is newly hoed soil. Is that not just the best sight of all for a gardener at this time of year? It makes you just want to get out there and garden :-D

Wishing everyone a very Happy GBBD!!

All photos above with the exception of the montage and cake were taken in my garden on February 15th 2010.